Switched to XFCE

Normally I use KDE 4.6 but recently Kmail started to have serious problems with fetching my email from IMAP so I decided that enough is enough and started checking other options.

As on efika smartbook I am using XFCE I installed it, logged into and configured to be more or less proper environment for me. Also tried Unity and GNOME but none of them fit me.

What is definition of “what fits me”? I use 3-4 virtual desktops:

  1. terminals, editors
  2. web (chromium now)
  3. mailer
  4. short work related apps

Jabber client (psi) is set to appear on all desktops. I switch using +[1-9] keys or by scrolling mousewheel over desktop. I move windows with +LMB and resize them with +RMB. Doubleclick on window title == roll and same for mousewheel unless there is tabbing support in WM (then it switches tabs).

So first which failed was Unity. I saw it before on other people laptops but did not took much time to play with it. Logged into session and after ~hour uninstalled everything. No application menu (I do not like “type a name” type icon launchers), no virtual desktops in old way. I felt lost – no idea how to get rid of storage icons from launcher, how to add new entries.

Next one was classic GNOME. Lot of time passed since v1.4 which was last version used by me (then switched to Windowmaker + rox-filer + gnome-panel, then kde 3 and kde 4). Indicators, settings applets split into user and admin ones, lack of Polish language by default (I thought that I installed it but visit in settings/admin/languages told different thing). Had few hard system crashes but with help of #ubuntu-x guys I found that one of mesa libraries was still from xorg-edgers ppa. After reverting to natty one compiz was stable. But I did not found a way to get +RMB for resizing window. Spent some time configuring system but I did not felt good in this system.

Went back to XFCE as this is simple, clean and fast starting. Now my set of tools is mix of KDE, XFCE, GNOME ones as I use Okular, XFCE-Terminal and Evolution ;D

But Evolution shows own problems after few days. I am unable to use Canonical LDAP for addressbook even it is properly configured. I suppose that some dependency is missing which is fulfilled in standard GNOME desktop. Lack of ability to change keyboard shortcuts is a serious limitation for me as I am used to other then default ones. There is no way (or I did not found it yet) to set same way of displaying emails for all folders (including sort order). Some confirmation requests should have “Do not ask anymore” checkboxes — for example “mark all emails in this folder as read” one. And GMail contacts addressbook is not working — but this can be work around by exporting from web interface and importing VCards.

But the most annoying thing is weird way to decide when mail is read. I set it to 0 seconds as this allows me to quickly slip though emails which I do not found interesting enough to reply but instead Evolution forgets to mark some of them as read. And there is no code to detect repeated shortcuts (as somehow I got to the point where I could change some) so I have “Ctrl-D” as “mark as read” which also deletes email (which is not listed in menu)… And why do I have to configure whole account just to add identity… Or why I can not define one SMTP server for all incoming accounts?

So far I am fine with this setup. Will have to check other email applications again (Claws maybe, definitely not Thunderbird) as Evo is not so good as people are describing it.

I am old fashioned

I use KDE since 2004 (do not remember which version it was). Lot of things changed during that time. But not my X11 session use.

Since beginning of my Linux use (in 2000) I use one set of virtual desktop. Their amount changes from time to time but there are always at least 4 of them (six at the moment):

  1. “work area” — terminal, gvim (few copies of each)
  2. “web area” — here I have web browser (now it is chromium, was firefox, galeon in past)
  3. “mail/news are” — mail/news reader (kontact with kmail/knode, was sylpheed-claws at some time)
  4. “misc area” — here I run software which do not fit to first three

Terminal application changes from time to time. First it was GNOME-Terminal from GNOME 1.4, then Konsole, xterm, uxterm, rxvt-unicode, eterm and few others but after experimenting with many I stayed with Konsole. It has tabs so allows me to run many sessions in one window. Some of tabs have “screen” attached as this allows me to quickly get another shell in working directory and also easy way to log any output (“tee” sometimes got blocked). With recent KDE 4.x changes I started to using “window grouping” to split tabs related to other tasks from main terminal. This gives me one terminal window on screen with few tabbed windows in it which can have own tabs which can have screen sessions in them. May sounds strange but it works. And I always have screen with “irssi” running in it (on local or remote machine).

As editor I use gVim mostly. I kind of mastered it and do not feel good in Kate, Eclipse, JEdit or other “so called normal” editor. Never tried Emacs but do not plan to.

During UDS-M when I told that I am using MPlayer for all videos reaction was interesting. I got list of modern video players (mostly GStreamer based ones) which I should switch to. But I really do not see a need for it. MPlayer maybe is pain in the ass sometimes but it plays everything I have, adds subtitles in a way which I like, has controls on keyboard which I remember and allows me to seek instead of fast forwarding during watching film. Ok, on devices like BeagleBoard I probably can get better results with GStreamer based apps but thats due to codecs which can use DSP.

I never liked Konqueror — always used Gecko based browser. It was Galeon 1.x in past, Phoenix/Firebird/Firefox later, Chromium now. Tried Opera (UI never managed to integrate with look&feel of my desktop) and few other browsers. Chromium is nice but has some drawbacks. Maybe some will be fixed/changed.

Even removable storage I most of time handle with “pmount” command. It works fine for me and I do not like to have all my pendrives/memory cards/etc to be auto mounted. How will I notice which is which in situation when I plug 2 same ones… And UUIDs or filesystem labels are not solution probably. But maybe I will change that in next months.

But back to desktops. KDE 4 has widgets on desktops, activities and few other buzz words. I do not use them. Ok, panel has few widgets integrated but it is still panel. I simply do not see a use case on my desktop for most of widgets. Even after trying them.

So if someone wonder why I do not use something which “everyone is using” then I hope that I gave an answer.

KDE 4.1? No, thanks

I am using KDE since switched from Duron 600 to Athlon XP (few years ago). IIRC it was 3.1.something then. It was nice improvement from my desktop built on ROX-Filer + gnome-panel and WindowMaker. Time passed, my machines got faster and faster, 3D hardware acceleration was added with NVidia cards and then KDE 4 started to appear…

I installed KDE 4 on my desktop and tried to use it for few months. First it was 4.0.x but I upgraded to 4.1-svn packages when they started to be available for Debian. Ideas which KDE team has are nice but usability of such desktop is much worse then KDE 3.5.9 one 🙁 Too much bling, too less features so I “upgraded” back to 3.5.9 to get nicely working system.

What did I lose with KDE 4.1 (tried final release yesterday):

  • fast desktop switching (if there is Konsole open on desktop it will render for long time)
  • fast Konsole tab switching (I have 2-8 tabs in terminal)
  • ability to set/move panel at any edge of screen (now I use top panel, used more)
  • ability to reorder applets/plasmoids in panel (ops – there is a way but not as intuitive as it was in 3.5)
  • Klipper is not usable (crash on nearly each use, not launching browser)

From what I read on KDE website Konsole problems are related to NVidia cards and workaround is given. I wonder why there is no check in preferences “I have NVidia — do not use ARGB windows then” or other way. I think that it should be easy to check with few function calls which OpenGL libs are in use…

Looks like now I have to wait to 2009 for KDE 4.2 and then check does it behave or not. Or maybe it is time to check XFCE or other environment?

Back in KDE 3.5

Some time ago I wrote that I am considering switching back to KDE 3.5 after few months with KDE 4.0/4.1-svn. Finally I did it.

Reasons are the same as in previous post — lack of stability and I for now I do not see bright future for KDE 4.1 (but this can change after release if developers will work on fixing bugs instead of adding new features/rewrites). With 4.1 svn snapshots there was guessing ‘what is broken today and how badly’ — mostly Plasma desktop was more or less unusable. For example panel which works in 4.0.72 stopped working with 4.0.73 unless enlarged to normal size, second panel nearly never worked (or even made Plasma crash each time).

So for now I am back on KDE 3.5 with few components from 4.1-svn (window manager, Okular, Dolphin) and wait for 4.1/4.2 releases to have something to test.

Going back to KDE 3?

After few months of using KDE 4 (4.0.1 — 4.0.3 and then 4.0.68 snapshot) I am thinking about reverting back to KDE 3.5.9. Why such decision? Software is just not yet ready for each day use.

Plasma based desktop

Plasma based desktop is overrated — you need KDE 4.1 snapshot to get possibility to have more then one panel. But still no way to re-arrange “plasmoids” on it… Not to mention that they will have totally broken sizes:


Also padding between panel icons (bottom panel) is huge and non configurable. Option to group running tasks by desktop is missing too. And what for are “Zoom Out”/”Zoom In” options? I do not see sense in them.

Amount of plasmoids is small — few basic ones only so to have for example weather information I would have to launch SuperKaramba like it was under KDE 3.5.

Lack of PIM

KDE PIM team works on new features but it will be ready rather after 4.1 release. According to few developers current version is not yet recommended to each day use.

Remote desktop

KRDC from KDE4 is maybe better for developers but for me it is more broken then 3.5 version. I use it to VNC session to my WinXP laptop. With newer version I often have stuck Shift/Ctrl/Alt keys after switching to/from KRDC. And even if I selected option “keep passwords in KWallet” it asks me for VNC password each time 🙁

And I really like idea of “one window per connection” instead of tabs. I mostly use one connection so old style KRDC window is more usable for me.

System settings

Application is nice — but where is “Administrator mode” button for “Computer administration” modules? Normal user can launch “Date & Time” control panel and look at disabled GUI. In KDE 3.5 there was button to prompt for administrator password to alter configuration.

The annoying thing is that you cannot have settings application from KDE 3.5 and 4.x installed at same time. And KDE4 one do not set colours for KDE 3.x applications 🙁


As everything KDE 4.x has bugs. I gave up on reporting new ones as they too often bit rot for eons with “UNCONFIRMED” state even if few other people write that they have same bug on their systems.

One of nasty ones is broken support of SFTP links… On one system I have account with /home/users/hrw/ as $HOME. I am unable to open/save files from that location as KDE Filerequster is unable to handle this due to fact that /home/ is not readable for users. At least Dolphin handle this properly…

Konqueror which is unusable because most of time it end working sooner or later due to “Unable to connect to klauncher” – WTF?

Another small annoyance: launch Dolphin and press “Ctrl-L” to edit location. Why it can not automatically select current location? I catch myself each time that I am writing insane paths due to old one not being removed.

Good parts

I like KWin composite effects. But this can be installed even on KDE 3.5 system so less problem.

Was there more good things? Probably yes — I maybe did not noticed them or not get used to them.

Programming tools which I use

During last weeks I mostly work for OpenedHand company. In this time I became more and more addicted to some of programming related KDE apps. My usual set of working programs consists:

Great note taking apps which I use to keep 3-4 lists of ToDo items.
Subversion client which is nicely integrated in Konqueror window.
merge util which is too good to not be used
difference showing util which visualize changes (KDESvn can use it)

Another interesting apps:

KDE interface to Cscope — provides a source-editing environment for large C projects. Good thing if you want to work with things like kernel drivers. Linux.com had article about this tool quite recently.
Minimal dumb-terminal emulation program — very useful when it comes to talk with U-Boot on Neo1973 or talking to GSM Modem inside of that phone. Much better then cu from uucp package as this one does not need any permission changes, extra spool directories etc crap.

Some of my readers use them, some use other stuff. If you know interesting application which can help me in doing my programmer/system integrator work then feel free to add info in comments.

Annoying software bugs

There is no software without bugs. But there are bugs and BUGS. Second ones are annoying, well known and no one work on getting them fixed. Few examples:

  1. FireFox/Iceweasel — many people use it, many people want to kill their developers. Why? It leaks memory, it eats memory, it can take 6GB of memory just because there is no more memory available in system. Problem exists in 2.0.x but also in 3.0 trunk version. No solution developed.

  2. KMail — flagship of KDE PIM. It can fetch mail, send mail and do many other things with mails. And it can handle OpenPGP/GnuPG signed/encrypted ones. But a way how it handle them is horror. Whole UI freezes, no updates for several seconds just because someone decided to sign all his mails. Bug was submitted over 5 (FIVE) years ago, there was one major KDE release and many minor ones but bug is still present. No one even marked is as important.. No comments

I can live with first bug as for most of time I use Konqueror. But solving second one needs to wait until Mailody will get more usable so I will be able to switch to it. I lost faith that KDE PIM will get into more usable state then it is now.

KOffice 1.4.1

Today I decided to try KOffice 1.4.1 on my desktop as I wanted spreadsheet which can open MS Excel or atleast OASIS OpenDocument files and wont be called “OpenOffice.org Calc”.

After few hours of compile I started KSpread, loaded OpenDocument saved by OOCalc2 and I got so many error messages in terminal that I decided to skip another release of KOffice.

Who knows — maybe KOffice 2.0 will be finally working…